Rowing to Baikal: Sixty Days on Mongolia's Selenge River
by Peter W. Fong
Publication date: Dec. 5, 2023
U.S. Distribution: Ingram
Paperback: 978-1-957607-22-1 $19.95
eBook: 978-1-957607-28-3 $9.99
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Praise for Rowing to Baikal:
"[Fong] dexterously combines factual science with lyrical nature writing, especially his descriptions of the region's geography or fly-fishing for the often-elusive taimen. He also addresses the ecological impacts of hydropower dams on the Selenge River and fish populations.... This overflowing travelogue may appeal to readers of National Geographic, fishing enthusiasts, and others willing to take this highly detailed journey."
“Rowing to Baikal is an instant classic in the disturbing genre created by people in love with massive ecosystems in the process of being destroyed. Peter Fong's portrait of the rivers that carry a fifth of Earth’s freshwater to Lake Baikal is both panoramic and intensely personal, stretching from the political nightmares that threaten Baikal to love for the tiny pikas ("Little Kings,” Peter calls them) that still perch on boulders in the headwaters surveying the beauty and heartache far below. Eighty percent of the world’s rivers are now dammed at stupendous cost to ecological and cultural health. That more dams within a year may decimate this planetary treasure stands in maddening contrast to Peter's courageous account of his voyage. I love this book, and pray health to its waters.”
—David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and Sun House
"There are few more beautiful places on earth than Lake Baikal and its vast surroundings; this account of a noble adventure will leave you with deep impressions of the place and its people, its past and its possible futures. Surely a fifth of the earth's fresh water deserves your attention!"
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and The End of Nature
"Both a rollicking yarn and a moving portrait of a complex, remote place, Rowing to Baikal goes up mountains and down the Selenge River to show us the politics, significance, and beauty of the Mongolian-Russian borderlands. Full of camels, rare fish, and unforgettable people, Fong makes you care for this river and the cultures it nurtures."
—Bathsheba Demuth, author of Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait
"Rowing to Baikal is an engrossing tale told by the intrepid Peter Fong, whose vivid prose carries readers to the farthest ends of the earth, and expands our sense of discovery, responsibility, and interconnectedness—our ken, as it were—as all good stories should."
—Chris Dombrowski, author of The River You Touch
“In Rowing to Baikal, Peter Fong has written a graceful and illuminating account of the Baikal Headwaters Expedition. Fong leads a captivating cast of characters in a search for solutions to the entangled dilemmas of river conservation and energy independence for Mongolia, weaving together ecological observations and a passionate voice for the river’s future.”
—Nancy Langston, author of Climate Ghosts and Sustaining Lake Superior
“Rowing to Baikal is a magical story of a scientific expedition through the Selenge River watershed. Peter Fong has picked up the pen from the likes of Peter Matthiessen and Carl Safina. This treasure is a travel narrative, conservation account, and an environmental justice treatise all wrapped into a perfectly paced adventure with kayaks, shamans, vodka, and always, swimming just ahead, the elusive Baikal omul and the Mongolian taimen: two rare fish with climate change and geopolitics nipping at their tails.”
—Richard J. King, author of Ahab’s Rolling Sea and The Devil’s Cormorant
"Rowing to Baikal is a contemplative study of the Selenge River and the people and species living along its waters and banks."
—Wendy Hinman, Foreword Reviews
After plans were announced for multiple dams in Mongolia’s Selenge River watershed, award-winning author and veteran flyfishing guide Peter W. Fong was spurred to learn more about this remarkable ecosystem. On a first-ever scientific expedition from the headwaters of the Selenge to Russia’s Lake Baikal, he and an international team traveled more than 1,500 kilometers by horse, camel, kayak, and rowboat through one of the world’s most rugged regions and a last, best stronghold for the planet’s largest salmonid: the taimen.
Fong’s account of this dramatic journey tells a passionate yet nuanced story of the Selenge River and its tributaries. About the fish and wildlife that call the river home. About the human history of the region, from the Bronze Age to the fall of the Soviet Union. About the people who live in the basin now—from nomadic herders to construction engineers—and their attitudes toward development and conservation. About the old gods and legends that haunt the mountains. And about the disparate possible futures for one of the most starkly beautiful places on earth.
Latah Books and the author are grateful to the Wild Salmon Center for its generous support of this project.